Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Labour attacks UK Charities

You know that a government is desperate once it starts to attack the most vulnerable in society and this is exactly what Labour seems to be doing as they seek to remove the exemption that charities currently enjoy from music royalties. Despite being in force since 1988, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act will be amended so that all charities must, from April 2010, obtain a license from Phonographic Performance Ltd if they wish to play copyrighted music to the public. Clearly this covers nearly every charity that seeks to advertise on either the radio or on television and some smaller charities may fail to notice that the law has even changed. Will we therefore possibly see a legal case where a music producer takes a charity to court?! Simon Cowell v. NSPCC could create a few headlines in itself!

The amendment to the law will simplify the framework within which charges are applied and the payment is only £81 annually, but this is £81 that could otherwise be better spent, particularly in the case of non-profit organisations and such an amount could be a significant dent in the finances of some smaller charities. The government’s apparent justification for the amendment is that it is necessary remove the exemption to achieve a proper balance between owners of the rights to the music and the users in accordance with EC and international law. Such a claim seems, in reality, hard to substantiate. For example, use of music for weddings, hospital wards and medical therapy are still exempt; is there no balance to be redressed here?

Overall the advantages of the amendment are hard to find with regard to charities. The overall system may be simplified but it was probably a whole lot simpler when they paid nothing at all.